Feb 232006

Photographing jewelry isn’t all that difficult if you have the right equipment. I’ve mentioned before that I love using my scanner to photograph flattish items, but I’ve been challenged with things like rounded pendants, dangly earrings, and watches.

Today I broke down and purchased a nice, mid-priced Nikon digital camera (Coolpix 7600) that is really doing the trick with those hard to photograph pieces. I learned a few things while shopping for my camera that are important if you are trying to get detailed photos, like those of jewelry and beads.

* Get the highest number of mega-pixels you can afford. This will sharpen your detail incredibly, and give you nice clean, photos.
* Macro is a need, not a nice-to-have! I experimented with some photos before reading the instructions (I’m terrrible that way!) and couldn’t get the nice sharp edges the way the guy in the electronics store did. Frustrated, I finally took out the manual and started reading…yes, I needed to use the MACRO setting, and when I did, those details were incredible! Sharp, clear, concise and colorful.
* Don’t use the flash on sparkly stuff. I was thinking that part of my issue with my other camera was that it had no flash, but no, no, no. Get a camera that has a flash, but one that has the ability to turn it off when you don’t want to use it. A flash on a sparkly stone or crystal is just going to glare and look awful.
* Self-timer is essential. Believe it or not, you WILL shake or jerk just a tiny bit when you depress that shutter button. A self-timer enables you to depress the shutter, then the camera will sit for a few seconds before taking the photo. If you have it sitting on a hard surface (I used books to prop mine up) or on a tripod, no blurring due to the shakes.

Other features that aren’t essential to jewelry photographing but might be considered are the size (I like something small and lightweight), memory (mine has only about 7 photos in the memory…about worthless, but that’s why you buy a card to insert in it), and warranty.

Feb 192006

I had two goals today: Complete an eyeglass chain for a friend and submit one entry to the RingsNThings annual contest.

Chain is still in progress. I was fairly pleased with the initial results, but then realized that I had cut my beading wire too short (forgot to double it!) and now have to start over. Probably a good thing, because I also decided I wanted to change my design slightly. I don’t need to have it done until Wednesday, so still some wiggle room there.

I did get one entry in to the R&T contest, not that it wasn’t without it’s frustrations. The piece I’m submitting (one of them, anyway) is a large, three dimensional pendant on a hand-tooled chain, and it doesn’t work well for my favorite method of photographing jewelry: scanning. And while I have a nice digital camera that works well for photographing horses or other large objects, it’s not so hot for the details required for jewelry photos. After several trials and errors, and a recharge of the digicam’s battery, I finally had a photo I was happy with, and the necklace was submitted for entry.

After the contest closes February 28, I’ll post a photo of the necklace. I’m very, very pleased with it…and even hubby thought it was a clever and cool design.

At least now I can quit stressing about that. 😉 Now my biggest challenge for the week is to complete that eyeglass chain, and perhaps whip up a necklace and earrings to wear to two weddings I’ll be attending this coming weekend.

Nothing like being able to custom make my own accessories. 🙂

Feb 182006

What’s hot? Size really does matter, girls. Well, let’s just say this season that LENGTH does. I’m seeing lots and lots of long, longer, longest necklaces…like one from Red Envelope (designed by acclaimed jewelry artist Vallora Sabourin). Great lightweigh look, with briolettes and round crystals wrapped and hung from open delicate chain. The total chain length is 40″, which can be worn long and dangly, or looped and wrapped multiple times. GREAT versitality!

What else is new? Well, FireMountain’s annual contest rules are posted, and the prizes are fantastic. Could you use $50-1000 credit from FMG? I sure could! Entries are not due until August 31, 2006, so plenty of time to plan, create and get great photos of your best work. Twelve categories to choose from, including men’s jewelry, accessories and wearable art, along with the usual bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and textile categories.

Beadalon has some interesting new products: Scrimps, which take the place of crimp beads. The best description I can come up with is that Scrimps look like a tiny bead-shaped tire valve stem cover (you know, the one that you need to remember to put back on when you put air in your tire?). A small screw on the side of the bead is tightened and holds beading wire in place. Screwdriver is included in the kit, scrimps appear to not be sold seperately. I’ve not tried them, but found them for purchase at American Beads online for $25.66 for 10 sets (6 scrimps and one screwdriver). If anyone does try the product, be sure to drop me a line beadingpublisher@consumerhelpweb.com

Feb 182006

Finding your own style. It’s a difficult thing! I’ve been reading message boards and web sites of other jewelry makers and saw a really interesting comment the other day. The writer said she was “making jewelry in _____’s style, at least until I find my own.”

Two thoughts on that comment.

First, how would I feel if someone was “making jewelry in my style”? I guess if they were using tutorials that I’d written, or were making things for their own personal (not resale) use, I hope I’d be flattered. For one thing, that’s part of why I do it. It’s part of why I work on my art in public at times…I hope to teach, even a little, and have some legacy live on in someone else’s work. On the other hand, if someone took my designs and sold them as their own creations, I’d be a little miffed. More than that, it’s downright theft of my ideas, and I might do more than be a little ticked off. (Read March 2006 The Crafts Report for an article on identifying and seeking legal advice on design theft.)

So, to answer my question – how I would feel about “imitation being the sincerest form of flattery” would depend on the circumstance. 😉

Second thought is on finding one’s own style. I’ve found style evolves along the way. What I may have done in my beginnings of working with beads and wire has morphed into something else. My friend and fellow artist Angie says that my work is “girly” and I’ve seen that it does tend toward delicate and feminine. I also find that I gravitate toward open design: less cramped, closed, tightly wound; more open loops and swirls, beads and stones that have an airy feel to them. I’m sure as I travel along my own paths, my style will continue to change, twist and turn much as the wire I use to create my jewelry.

Feb 172006

Portable beading.

Yesterday I talked a little about TSA guidelines and what’s allowed to be taken on an airplane in terms of tools and supplies. Today, I’d like to mention that it’s easy to bring beading supplies with you anywhere you have a “wait”, it just takes a little planning!

Two-three times a week, my son has an hour to 90 minute karate class. Every two weeks, I have an appointment where I have to sit quietly in a room for 30 minutes (my own personal time out, LOL). Once in a while, I get caught in a doctor’s appointment or other down time where I am “waiting” for someone or something else.

I always have a book or magazine in my car or office for unexpected wait times, as well as scratch paper (or even better yet, a notebook!) and pen/pencil to jot notes or sketches. When I know I’m going to have some down time, however, I’ll try to plan something a little more elaborate.

Tonight, for example, I grabbed an oversize tote my husband got me for Christmas, and dropped in a work in progress (contest entry for RingsNThings, if you must know!), tools, wire, and a small cup to toss wire components into while I worked. I was able to nearly complete the project during the time that I could have spent reading a month old Entertainment magazine or watching Madagascar. 😀

Instead of “wasting” precious time, I not only was able to gain significant progress on a project, but I also had several people asking me about what I was doing. (I supposed using my hammer and anvil to harden some wire probably added to the curiousity factor! I was told jokingly by one gentleman that “you need to find a quieter hobby!”) Working on jewelry in a public place adds to the knowledge that my work is handcrafted, and people are interested in watching a “demo”, which I always will gladly do as I’m working.

So next time you know you’ll be sitting around, with nothing to do but twiddling your thumbs, drop a half finished project into a bag and bring it with you. Who knows, you might just sell it before you even get to take it home. 😉

Feb 162006

I’m taking a trip in a little more than a week, and one leg of my trip does involve air travel. In researching what beading supplies and tools I can take with me on the plane, I found that I can carry on (and presumably work with during the flight)…

Pliers (seven inches or less in length)
Scissors (four inches or less in length), plastic or metal with blunt tips
Nail clippers

Scissors with pointed tips are permitted in checked luggage, but should be sheathed to protect baggage handlers. One item I did not find listed on the TSA web site was sewing needles – knitting or crochet needles are permitted for carry on, but I will have to call the airline about beading needles.

Since I’ll have extended time in the plane (and in layovers), I’d like to learn some new stitches with seed beads. But rather than losing my tools (and potentially getting in worse trouble!) I will be sure it’s okay to take all of my supplies and tools on the plane first.

If you are working on beading projects while you are traveling, remember a few handy tips.
– Keep supplies and projects in a case that closes quickly – I used a child’s plastic pencil box. Whether you are in a plane, a train, or an automobile, you may run into circumstances where you’ve got to shut down shop quickly.
– Use beading mats, foam pads or other materials to keep beads from rolling around.
– Have a small bag you can use for trash, and NEVER cut wire, beading wire, or other materials in a manner that they will pose hazard to your fellow travelers!!
– Precut wire or have your beads organized by project to cut down on how much room you’ll need to work. Remember, even First Class is cramped compared to most workshops!

If nothing else, bring a great beading magazine or book on the trip with you. You’ll still spend time wisely in educating yourself, and don’t forget a sketch pad or notebook to draw up ideas!

Feb 122006

It takes true talent to create something hideous.

Trust me. I’ve said for years that you have to be able to sing well to sing horribly on purpose. Now, if one cannot carry a tune in a bucket because that’s not a talent you were graced with, that’s one thing…but to be able to purposely sing like William Hung takes guts and practice.

That being said, I’m going to try my hand at entering the LandOfOdds Ugly Necklace Competition this year. Entries are due to the website by March 15, and while I have some necklaces that probably qualify, just on basic design technique or lack thereof, I don’t yet have something GodAwful enough to enter.

Contests, a little like juried art shows, take some guts to enter. My advice is to read the rules, follow them to the letter, and submit the very best photos of your work that you can get. Then sit back, relax, and wait for the results. Whether or not you do well, when you are first starting out, is not the point. Entering and having someone critique your work is scary, but it can be very gratifying!

When you are starting out, stick to contests that don’t require an entry fee, and are geared toward first time entrants/winners. As you build skill and experience, both in your art and in your contest entry abilities (some contests require you to write a short story, instructions or thoughts about your piece!), you’ll find the confidence to enter more challenging contests.

Above all, have fun. It’s going to look great on your resume/portfolio/website to have won a contest, but unless you enjoy it, that victory will be hollow.

Feb 122006

Well, I’m mad at myself. I missed deadlines for two contests that ended yesterday and I really wanted to enter them. I need a secretary to keep track of things!

I did see that my friend Angie has entered one of them, the Wire-Workers Heart Pendant contest, so GO ANGIE!!

I am going to get entries in for the RingsNThings annual contest, I love this one because there are so many categories! Deadline for that one is the end of February.

Feb 102006

Do you have trouble fastening your bracelets?

With a toggle clasp, sometimes it just takes a bit of practice. But with lobster or spring rings, there are times when I personally feel like I need to stand on my head to put on a simple bracelet in the morning!!

Since I usually get ready for work (and put on my jewelry) way before anyone else in my household wakes up, having one of my family members help me is pretty much out. And the dog, who is generally awake at that hour if I tell him it’s “time to go out!” has the unfortunate handicap of no opposable thumbs, so he’s pretty useless as well.

Enter the Happy Hooker, the Substitute Spouse, the Bracelet Buddy. Whateve you call them, these little gadgets are THE BEST for putting on difficult jewelry – simply grab the ring end of the clasp with the alligator clip, hold the handle steady in the hand of the wrist you are putting the jewelry on, and VOILA! you are clasped in seconds. Yes, it does take a bit of practice, but it’s way better than standing on my head at 5:00 a.m.

Feb 092006

Bit of jewelry trivia for you.

What time are most display watches and clocks set to? And why?

If you pay attention, you’ll notice that watch and clock displays are set to 10:10. An explanation I remember hearing once upon a time that stuck with me was that was the time Lincoln was shot (sorry, it was actually 10:15). Another explanation I’ve heard is that the tradition began during WWII and that the hands signaled “V for Victory”. Or it could be that the face of the clock looks like a smile with the hands set at 10:10, saying unconciously “BUY ME AND YOU’LL SMILE TOO”. Strangest rumour is that it’s to symbolize open legs (eek!). Truth probably is that the hands in those positions frame the manufacturer’s name or logo, and the slight imbalance is more aesthicially pleasing than completely across from each other (9:15 or 4:55, for example).

And the reason I thought about this smidge of trivia is because I’ve been fashioning watches tonite. Picked up some nice faces at 3.99 and 4.99 from HHH Enterprises, and had some fun designing several different styles. Look for project sheets and a review of HHH’s online store soon.